Supernatural Chapter Seven: Why People Don’t Always Get Healed
THE BIG IDEA: In the midst of the glorious, powerful church in Acts, where signs and wonders were frequent, not all of the people were healed all of the time. Why? We will consider that question as we look at the story of the martyr, Stephen.
”God in His infinite wisdom has the answer for those who are not healed. This remains a mystery to any honest minister who preaches that Jesus is our Healer. Our experience is that not everyone is healed. Many are, but not all.” (John & Sonja Decker, Doing What Jesus Did).[i]
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The supernatural church in Acts was birthed with a promise and a commission from Jesus. He said, “Before you do anything, get the power of the Holy Spirit.” The church gathered together for a time of passionate, God-seeking prayer, and on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down, empowering them to be witnesses for Jesus. Peter preached one sermon, and three thousand people were saved. Many signs and wonders were done through the apostles. Peter and John were going to church one day, saw a man who was crippled, and healed him. The church prayed for more boldness, and the building they were meeting in was shaken. Peter had so much of the power and presence of God on his life that even his shadow passing over someone’s sick body would result in them being healed. There was a time where the disciples were thrown in jail for preaching the Gospel and God sent one of His angels to set them free. All of this happened in just the first five chapters of Acts. That’s a powerful, glorious church! Twenty-seven of the twenty-eight chapters in Acts contain stories about supernatural phenomenon. The miraculous was regular, frequent, and normal for the church to see. However, even in the Book of Acts, not everyone was healed all the time.
All believers have experienced this at one time or another. They have prayed for someone who was sick, and the person didn’t get healed. Or they have prayed for someone who was dying and they died anyway. If we only look at one side of the coin – the truth that Jesus is a healer, and He’s still healing people today – it would be easy for someone to become frustrated and discouraged.
In this chapter, we’re wading out into some deep theological waters. We need the Holy Sprit to lead and guide us into all truth to understand these deep things of God. Let’s pray:
Father, we thank you for your Word. Your Word is what gives us wisdom and knowledge and understanding. As we take the time to look at this topic, open up our hearts and minds to receive this truth. For those who have prayed for healing in the past and haven’t received it, give them clarity, and may the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit minister your love and grace to them, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Shortly after I became a Christian, I came across a book about healing where the author said: “It is God’s will to heal all of the time. If you pray for healing, a miracle will always happen. The only time God won’t answer your prayer is if you don’t have enough faith or if there’s sin in your life.” Being a new believer and not knowing better, I assumed that everything this author had written was true. While I was reading through this book, my grandmother got sick and was dying of cancer. This was in February of 1991, only three months after I started attending church. We got a phone call from the hospital saying she wasn’t going to make it through the night, so my mom, step-dad, sisters and I piled into the car and drove a long, agonizing eight hours from Regina to Red Deer, Alberta.
During that drive, I cried out to God with many tears, praying for Jesus to heal my grandma. By the time we reached the hospital at 6:00 in the morning, she had already passed away. We didn’t even have a chance to see her and say goodbye. You can imagine how devastating that was to me as a young believer. I was only 18 years old, and only a few months old in the faith. I had been told that if I prayed in faith, healing would happen all the time. Now I was experiencing a crisis of faith. Was there some un-confessed sin in my life I didn’t know about that had caused God to withhold his miracle-working power? Did I not have enough faith? I know of many people in similar situations who, because their experience didn’t line up with what they were taught, abandoned their faith in God altogether. However, that experience motivated me to begin digging deeper into my Bible, and I began reading God’s Word from cover to cover. I wanted to know the truth of God’s Word for myself and wasn’t content with the ideas of men.
Pastor Dave Koop, the lead pastor of Coastal Church in Vancouver, said, “For every mile of road, there are two miles of ditches. There’s one side of the ditch that says God doesn’t heal anymore… on the other side of the ditch is the teaching that says if you have enough faith, you’ll be healed every time, so throw away your medicine and your glasses. This is the other extreme. There’s been damage done on both sides of the road.”[ii]
As we’re embarking on this journey, going deeper into the supernatural, we are looking for the truth of God’s Word concerning healing. We need to be aware of the ditches on either side because it’s easy to wander off of the highway of God’s truth. One side of the healing debate is the idea that God doesn’t heal today. We need to avoid that ditch. On the other side is the idea that God always heals all the time, as long as you pray hard enough, with enough faith. Somewhere in the middle is the truth of God’s Word, and that’s what we want to discover for our lives.
Thank God for this wonderful promise that He has given to us: “But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.” (Isaiah 42:16, msg).
The Martyrdom of Stephen:
We looked at the first part of Stephen’s story in our last chapter. He was one of the seven men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, chosen to serve food to the Greek widows. He was not one of the apostles, he was not a preacher, and he was not a pastor. He was a waiter. A servant. Why is that important to know? Because Luke tells us that Stephen “full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8). Stephen’s story reminds us that it’s not just the pastors, evangelists and missionaries who perform miracles. Jesus said, “These signs will follow those who believe… they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18). If you’re a believer, then God will use you in the supernatural realm of miracles, too.
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.” (Acts 6:8-12).
Here is Stephen, a regular Christian in the church, being obedient to the call of Jesus who had said, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:7-8). Stephen echoed the words of the prophet Isaiah and said, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” And Jesus sent him. Stephen was doing great signs and wonders among the people. He was familiar with the supernatural. He was a part of a church that believed in healings and miracles. And the religious leaders of his day didn’t like what Stephen was doing. They didn’t like the fact that Stephen was preaching about Jesus, the Savior and the Healer, so they brought him before the council to defend himself.
In chapter seven, we have the longest recorded sermon in Acts, 52 verses long. This sermon wasn’t preached by an apostle, pastor or a teacher – it was preached by Stephen the waiter! In this sermon, he gave an overview of Old Testament history including the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, the story of Moses and the Exodus, concluding his dynamic sermon with this power-packed punch: “You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.” (Acts 7:51-52). Needless to say, the religious leaders weren’t impressed with Stephen’s boldness.
“When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:54-60).
Look closely at the circumstances surrounding Stephen’s martyrdom. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, experienced an open Heaven, saw the glory of God, and had a vision of Jesus. He was a man of God, doing the will of God, and preaching the Word of God, but he still died. How could that happen in the midst of a supernatural church that was experiencing one of the greatest revivals in all of history? God could have sent an angel to deliver Stephen – we know that happened on other occasions in the book of Acts. After he was stoned to death, God could have raised him from the dead – there were many instances of that happening in the early church as well. None of those things happened. Why? Stephen was not a backslidden Christian – he was a passionate lover of Jesus. Why would God allow one of his faithful followers to die? After all Stephen did for Jesus, this doesn’t make sense. We’re going to consider that question in this chapter.
People Who Didn’t Get Healed:
Before we look at the question of why people don’t always get healed, let’s first take a look at some examples of other believers who didn’t receive healing or deliverance in the New Testament. Five chapters after Stephen’s martyrdom, we see King Herod killing James, one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, with the sword (Acts 12:1-2). Paul’s protégé, a young pastor named Timothy, had stomach problems and frequent illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23). The Apostle Paul himself, one of the greatest preachers of all time, had a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). See how Eugene Peterson translates this passage in the Message Bible: “I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.” Epaphroditus was sick almost unto death, but God had mercy on him (Philippians 2:25-27), and Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20).
There’s no way to get around it – even in the midst of the glorious and powerful church in Acts, not all the people were healed all the time. These stories should encourage us and give us hope when we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t receive our miracles from the Lord. We don’t have to question our salvation, or think that we there must be some un-confessed sin in our lives if we don’t get healed. We don’t have to doubt the love of God towards us. Even if we don’t get healed, God still loves us and cares about us.
To ponder the question of why sometimes people don’t get healed, we are going to look at one of the six New Testament letters that Paul and Timothy wrote together, Second Corinthians. This letter was written by two men of God who were greatly used by the Lord in the miraculous ministry, yet both of whom experienced physical challenges in their lives. The truths they wrote will comfort and encourage us as we struggle with seasons of suffering and sickness, and wonder why we don’t get healed all of the time.
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] John & Sonja Decker, Doing What Jesus Did. (Christ Ambassadors International, January 2005).
[ii] Dave Koop, The Father Who Heals. Coastal Church podcast, June 14, 2009.